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Jenny McCurry


PhD student

Room Number: Geography Building, Room 218


Research interests
Migration, Central and Eastern Europe, EU politics, citizenship, geographies of political participation, integration and social cohesion, transnationalism

PhD research
Citizenship, politics and place: Polish migrants in Northern Ireland

Since the EU enlargement of 2004, Polish migration to the UK has featured prominently in both academic and public debate.  However, the participation of Polish migrants in UK politics and civil society has received little attention to date.  Given the significant scale of migration from East to West and the expanded political rights associated with EU citizenship, this topic warrants further examination (Driver and Garapich, 2012b:4). Recent research has explored the attitudes of Polish migrants towards voting in local elections in London (Driver and Garapich, 2012a; 2012b) and their motivations for participating in the referendum on Scottish independence (Pietka-Nykaza, McGhee and West, 2014). However, this topic has not yet been explored within the particular socio-political context of Northern Ireland.  

My research aims to explore the ways and the extent to which Polish migrants participate in politics and civil society in Northern Ireland, their motivations for doing so and the barriers which they may experience.  It employs a mixed-methods approach by carrying out a survey, in-depth interviews and ethnography.  As well as making an empirical contribution to an area which requires further research, it offers the opportunity to explore the dynamics of migrant political participation in the context of a deeply divided society. The establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland provides an interesting framework to study multi-level understandings of citizenship and the construction of civic and political identities at multiple scales.  It also aims to engage with wider debates regarding citizenship and political participation against the backdrop of new patterns of mobility within the EU.  


  • Driver, S. and Garapich, M. (2012a) The new conservatives? Eastern and Central European voters and the London elections, Department of Social Science, University of Roehampton, London
  • Driver, S. and Garapich, M. (2012b) ‘Everyone for themselves’: Non-national EU citizens from Eastern and Central Europe and the London 2012 elections, Paper for the Elections, Public Opinions and Parties Conference, University of Oxford
  • Pietka-Nykaza, E. McGhee, D. and West, G. (ed.) (2014) Polish migrants in Scotland: voting behaviours and engagement in the Scottish independence referendum, Southampton, GB, ESRC Centre for Population Change (ESRC Centre for Population Change Briefing Paper, 20)



Academic background

  • 2012 – 2013: MRes Social Research Methods with Distinction, Queen’s University Belfast
  • 2010 – 2011: MSc International and European Politics with Distinction, University of Edinburgh
  • 2005 – 2008: BA Philosophy and Politics with First Class Honours, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Sept 2007 – Jan 2008: Erasmus semester at the University of Warsaw


  • Sept 2013 – February 2017: ESRC studentship from the London Social Science Doctoral Training Centre (fees and maintenance)
  • June 2016: Grant from QMUL Doctoral College to run a seminar on engaging with policymakers (value: £400)
  • May – July 2015: ESRC grant for an 8 week Overseas Institutional Visit at the Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw (value: £3,300)
  • Sept 2012 – Sept 2013: Fees scholarship from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast

Selected Presentations

  • July 2016: Addressing grievances in the context of community cohesion, Department for Communities and Local Government, London
  • April 2016: Polish organisations in Northern Ireland: Assessing the potential to facilitate social cohesion in a deeply divided society, Invited speaker as part of an ESRC seminar series, Queen Mary University of London
  • September 2015: Exploring the political participation of a new electorate: The case of Polish migrants in Northern Ireland, RGS-IBG Annual Conference, University of Exeter
  • June 2015: The political and civic engagement of Poles in Northern Ireland, Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw
  • April 2014: ‘Mobile workers or EU citizens? Exploring the participation of Polish migrants in politics’, RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum, Loughborough University


  • Reinventing Britain (1st year fieldtrip)
  • Ideas and Practice in Geography and Environmental Science (1st year tutorials)
  • Research Methods for Geographers and Environmental Scientists (1st year methods course)
  • Geographical Research in Practice (2nd year methods course)
  • Geographical Thought and Practice (MA course)

Other activities
In 2016 I carried out a 3 month policy internship at the Department for Communities and Local Government (supported by Research Councils UK).  I worked closely with DCLG analysts and policy professionals to assess approaches to improving community relations and addressing community tensions. This resulted in the production of a research report and a presentation of key findings to DCLG and Home Office staff.

In 2015, based on previous research and policy work in the area of welfare reform and food poverty, I carried out a scoping study for the Belfast Food Network on the growth of food banks in Belfast. The findings of this study (carried out in collaboration with Advice NI and funded by the Public Health Agency) are being used in the development of an action plan to tackle food poverty in collaboration with the voluntary, community and statutory sectors.

Prior to beginning my PhD I worked as an ESOL teacher in Poland and carried out a policy internship at the European Commission in Brussels. I also have experience of volunteering for migrant organisations in Belfast, including campaigns, research and policy work and teaching English to asylum seekers and refugees.

Twitter: @jenny_mccurry


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